To mark International Youth Day – 12 August – we spoke to Joshua Whatsize, our Youth Champion, about why he’s involved with HMDT and what he hopes to achieve.
1. Could you tell us what inspired you to become our Youth Champion?
My interest, passion and determination to help others become aware of the past and to highlight that genocides are still happening around the world today, all began when I visited Auschwitz and met a couple of Holocaust survivors in 2010. Since then I have wanted to get involved more and more. Hearing and seeing the reaction from other young people, after I had given a presentation about the Holocaust to them, inspired me to become the Youth Champion for HMDT as I wanted to have more opportunities to tell others, to get them more involved as I feel strongly that young people as a generation need to remember and commemorate, but also re-tell survivors stories to other generations so that their words are never lost.
2. What are you looking forward to most about your work with HMDT and the young people you will meet?
I am looking forward to working with young people, people with different ideas and finding ways to inspire others excites me greatly. As well as learning more and understanding why others want to get involved; whether that’s because of a link to the Holocaust or genocide through family, or personal experiences like mine when visiting certain historical sites like Auschwitz. On top of that working with HMDT more in helping expand and accomplish the Trust’s aims.
3. You wrote a play based on the survivor stories section of the HMDT website, what inspired you to do this?
I have always had a love for the arts and performing in particular. I have a keen interest in verbatim theatre where using the words of those who have experienced something is the basis and core of the script. I have done a lot of presentations to different schools and colleges during my year out but I had always wanted to do more, something that could expand and have a powerful message. Being part of the Nuffield Youth Theatre in Southampton gave me the opportunity to do this, yet the inspiration and idea came when reading survivor stories on the HMDT website, their words were so powerful and created such an image.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about the play and what you hoped to achieve with it?
The play itself is based around the eight stages of genocide and is linked closely to verbatim theatre, where by everything spoken had been said by a Holocaust survivor from a past interview they had given. Split into small monologues the piece goes through the stages of genocide. Each section is done in an interview style, with the use of the ensemble to help portray the interviewees’ thoughts, helping visually show what is being described. The ensemble during key moments creates words associated to what is being described. I hope to take it on tour, to schools and colleges wherever really! I am in the process of trying to get some funding for this to happen but who knows. If people however read it and like it, it would be a great feeling to know that it could be adapted or performed wherever and that its message is told to more people.
5. Martin Barrow from The Times saw your play and was really impressed by it – what did you think about his review of the play?
Of course I was bowled over by such a review! The play itself had been in the making for months and months, it certainly wasn’t plain sailing having to make sure the concept would be something an audience would understand. The script flowed as I was using different stories for different parts and having to sort out music, lighting and the set. There were moments when I didn’t think it would work or be worth trying to complete, so the review not only came as a shock but also made it all worthwhile! To have someone like that say it should be carried on and made bigger was a huge compliment for sure.
6. What do you do in your spare time?
I try and keep busy to be honest, as I can’t stand being bored! I do a lot of things associated with Holocaust Memorial Day so I go into schools and colleges giving talks to various students and I plan to do more in my local community for January 2013. I like to act and I have just finished doing Cymbeline by William Shakespeare at the Nuffield Theatre. I now hope to direct a few more pieces at the Nuffield as well as carrying on with my play. I am involved with another campaign called NubaNow, which is all about raising awareness about the on-going situation in Sudan. I hope in my spare time to write something to do with this, which can be performed by the Youth theatre. I also play squash and I also go gliding once a week too as I have a real love for flying! As well as that I also work part time.
7. What advice would you give to all the young people who might get involved with HMD 2013?
Do it! Get involved and the opportunities and people you can meet are great! My advice is simply don’t worry how big your activity is or how involved you are as long as you’re remembering and getting others to remember then in my opinion you’re involved! If you’re not too sure what to do then just do something small whether that’s carrying a name round with you all day from someone who didn’t survive or getting your school or college to do the same so each student does something like that. It may not seem a lot, but it’s actually a big thing as your remembering an individual and not the number! Contact your local council to see if they are doing anything for HMD 2013, if they’re not then pester them to do something, whether that’s a small memorial in a local church or town hall. The 2013 theme is all about building bridges and communities why not try and bring your community together or try and link your event with someone else’s. If you do get involved then tell us, tell HMDT – we want to know what’s going on!